BY KATHRYN BAUMGARTNER
The Christ Church in Sparkill held its third annual EcoDay and fifth annual Blessing of the Animals on October 13, with presentations by beekeeper Ron Breland and representatives from the Wolf Conservation Center – including one of the wolves.
The purpose of this day, according to Father Tom Faulkner, is to thank God for the world and the environment, and for protecting both people and animals. It is also about educating people, particularly the younger generation, about how to live a greener, more eco-friendly lifestyle.
This year, for the first time, representatives from the Wolf Conservation Center (WCC) were in attendance. With them was Atka, a 10-year-old arctic grey wolf who serves as “wolf ambassador.” The center is located in South Salem, N.Y. and is a private not-for-profit group established in 1999 that rescues wolves as part of the Species Survival Plan Program.
Of the 25 wolves currently being housed at the Center, some serve as part of the educational facility and are known as ambassadors. Atka is the only one of these who travels for presentations. He was brought through the church and blessed by Father Tom.
A lot of information was given about wild wolves, including the fact that they are afraid of humans and will shy away from them. Information about color, communication, methods of marking territory, and hunting habits were also given, but the most important fact to have taken away from the day was that wolves are by no means pets.
When asked if the audience was allowed to pet Atka, speaker Maggie Howell, WCC managing director, said, “We really don’t want to do that when we’re doing our presentations because we want people to understand what and who he is.”
Local beekeeper Ron Breland was also featured at EcoDay. He spoke of the difference between left- and right-brain thinking, the former having to do with mechanical, straight-forward thinking, and the latter with artistic, outside-the-box thinking.
Breland practices right-brain thinking when creating hives for his bees. Rather than using the traditional method of stacked hives, which is good for producing honey but bad for the bees, he created a unique dodecahedron shape that allows the bees to form hives more naturally. He would rather the bees make less honey and be alive than produce large amounts and not survive.
Beekeepers are traditionally thought of as wearing large suits to protect themselves when handling the hives, but Breland breaks from this tradition, not wearing any protective gear while amongst his bees. They have never given him a reason to question the trust he places in them by doing this.
At 3 p.m. people brought their animals to be blessed by Father Tom. There were all kinds of dogs present, and even a white pigeon. This blessing is held to honor St. Francis of Assisi, whose feast day is in early October.
The event was preceded by a lot of hard work on the part of the volunteers. The kitchen was packed with people baking breads, cooking soup, and frosting brownies; outside, tables were being set up with brochures and goods for the bake sale. There was also an old-fashioned apple press being used to make fresh apple cider. Proceeds from the sale went toward the cost of having the Center visit and the church’s fund for a new roof.